Permanent Exhibitions

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum's permanent exhibition introduces you to Maryland’s African American heritage via three galleries.

Tour the permanent collection through our new self-guided tour, The Generations Tour.

Engage family and community stories in Things Hold, Lines Connect Gallery

Visitors will learn how 200 years of slavery wrenched and sometimes broke the bonds of family and community among African Americans in Maryland. Men, women and children were torn from their loved ones, isolated, and sold to strangers.

Yet Maryland’s African Americans continuously renewed these bonds of family and community. Black Marylanders created tools for survival and self-determination, proving the power of their commitment to one another by rebuilding families and sustaining communities of worship, neighborhoods, towns and social organizations.

Discover the labor that built a nation in Building Maryland, Building America Gallery

For two centuries, Africans were brought to Maryland against their will and kept here by violence. Using native skills from Africa, enslaved persons worked on American plantations and farms, in shops and kitchens and in iron forges and shipyards.

Visitors to the museum will learn how slavery and exploited labor enriched the state and the nation, and how its vestiges harmed our entire society. But despite the emotional and societal devastation of this oppressive system, African Americans developed valuable trades that they employed in the struggle for opportunity, achievement and success.

Experience artistic and intellectual journeys in The Strength of the Mind Gallery

African Americans poured the emotions of a displaced and disenfranchised people into creative, artistic expressions. The Strength of the Mind Gallery focuses on Maryland African American accomplishments in both art and education, and tells the story of how Africans arriving by slave ship carried with them ancient cultural traditions and skills in music, art, dance, sculpture, storytelling and literature.

In the centuries of racism that followed, African Americans used art and education as a way of enduring and even overcoming an oppressive society. From this struggle emerged unique and universal works of music, literature, dance and visual art. Like artists everywhere, African Americans engaged their craft to express a personal sense of beauty and to forge a spiritual connection with their creator. In education, African Americans strove for excellence in performance, whether in the one-room schoolhouse or at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


So many legends have come from Maryland that the museum’s galleries alone cannot hold all of their stories. We invite you to visit often, expand your knowledge, and begin your own exploration of these incredible heroes.